£1m project for 1W PCSEL for AI

£1m project for 1W PCSEL for AI

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Vector Photonics has raised £1 million for an industrial research project to commercialise its 1 Watt, all-semiconductor, PCSEL lasers for AI chips.

At 1W, the optical power of the photonic crystal surface-emitting laser (PCSEL) in the Zeus project will be at least ten times that of incumbent DFB lasers, which currently operate at a maximum of 100mW. While current AI chips use multiple DFB lasers to achieve a single data transmission channel of suitable optical power, the Zeus PCSEL is being developed to support up to 20 data channels per chip.

“Zeus is a 24-month project covering the design, simulation, manufacture, and test, of a 1W, AI PCSEL,” said Dr. Richard Taylor, CTO of Vector Photonics, which is based in Glasgow, Scotland.

“The full impact of a 1 Watt PCSEL on AI chip design is not yet quantified, as the entire architecture of the chips and systems will change, but it brings countless manufacturing and energy saving benefits. Power consumption, heat and latency are reduced; the PCSEL’s symmetrical far-field requires less operational power for equivalent performance, so a further power reduction can be expected here; and the vastly reduced laser count per chip makes manufacture simpler and the chip smaller, which will undoubtedly improve yield and reliability,” he said.

PCSELs are a leading contender for next-generation AI data transmission, where DFBs are approaching their practical limit.

The Zeus project leverages Vector Photonics’ existing datacoms PCSEL commercialisation work and is a collaborative fund split between Innovate UK at £700k and the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund at £300k.

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